Meet Elke Feese

Elke Feese
Elke Feese



















Elke Feese won second place in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences category at the Graduate Student Research Symposium this spring for her poster presentation on “Synthesis of Water-Soluble Porphyrin-Peptide Conjugates.”

A fourth-year graduate student and Ph.D. candidate in NC State’s Department of Chemistry, Elke came to the United States, and specifically North Carolina, for personal reasons. She grew up in Germany and says that she “. . . had a really good chemistry teacher in high school who got me excited about chemistry. Also, my father is a scientist and I loved to discuss what I had learned in school with him” Feese went on to earn a diploma degree in chemistry -- equivalent to M.Sc. -- at Free University Berlin. And after moving to the Triangle area, she thought it was a good place to continue her studies and pursue her Ph.D.

Feese’s graduate research is focused on bacterial infections, specifically mycobacteria that cause tuberculosis (TB) – one of the leading causes of death due to a single disease, with 9.2 million new infections and 1.7 million deaths reported for 2006 alone. Presently, bacterial infections – TB and others -- are increasingly difficult to treat due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. So, Feese has been exploring a technique called ‘photodynamic inactivitation’(PDI) as an alternative approach to current TB treatments.

As Feese explains the methodology: “In this technique bacteria are treated with a non toxic dye. The bacteria are then illuminated with harmless white light (similar to regular light bulb), which cause the production of toxic singlet oxygen by the dye which in return damages and kills the bacteria.” One of the more exciting results was that “. . . data show that mycobacteria can be photodynamically inactivated, suggesting that PDI maybe be an attractive treatment option for drug-resistant tuberculosis.” She is currently developing new dyes for this process that will seek out bacteria for more efficient eradication.

Although her spare time is scarce, Feese says that she is “very passionate” about her involvement in the Chemistry Graduate Student Association, the University Graduate Student Association, and the RTP Women Chemist Committee of the ACS. She also enjoys running, swimming, and bike riding – and she completed her first sprint triathlon last summer!

Her advice to her fellow graduate students? Graduate students need to be very focused on their research, but Feese encourages “. . .everyone to also see beyond their own discipline. There are so many possibilities for grad students to get involved and shape life at NC State and learn valuable lessons for life.” She believes that, for her, becoming more engaged has been “. . . highly beneficial for my personal development.”

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